There was a skinny kid that lived halfway between our house and Greendale Elementary. They did some minor farming, like many in Greendale. There were no gigantic wheat or canola farms there, like on the prairies. But this farm did have a very tall silo. It was impressive. I wanted to climb it’s ladder to the top and look down. Look around and see if I could see the edge of the world, that’s how tall it was. The skinny kid was Ronnie Janischewski. His dad’s name was Ted, though that was not his real name because he came from Poland and had a Polish name.
There were rows of raspberry bushes next to their property. Gooseberries as well. I don’t know if they belonged to the Janischewskis or someone else, but they attracted lots of bees. Ronnie went to Greendale Elementary so sometimes we walked to and from school together. Although I was friendly with most of the kids at school, Ronnie was really the only kid I hung around with. He let me look inside the silo. It was empty, even though it could have probably held a billion tons of something. I climbed the ladder on the outside of the silo, all the way to the top. It was pretty awesome. This was before I acquired a fear of high places.
We did lots of things together, as kids always do. Curious, exploring, seeing how the world works, playing, building things together. His dad had a large workshop, as big as a triple wide garage. It had a paved floor and when there was no machinery inside, we used it as an indoor tennis court. Strung a rope from one wall to the other and spent hours hitting a ball to each other with homemade paddles.
The creek that ran through the back of our property went across country and ran behind Ronnie’s property as well. One day we decided to follow it and see how far it went. Perhaps all the way to the mountains in the south that divided Canada from the United States. There was something quite exotic and mysterious about there being another country on the other side of the mountains. I wondered if the American people looked different from us. I wanted to go there. We followed the creek for a long time. It wound and curved and squiggled like a writhing snake over the landscape, so even though we walked a long time, we didn’t actually get very far. Certainly not to America.
One adventure took us on an enterprise to the edge of the golf course. Our plan was to circle the fence line and collect stray golf balls that poor golfers had hit over the fence. We planned to sell them back and earn a little money. A win win. I don’t recall if we sold any but if we did, it wasn’t many because for all the hours we spent searching the underbrush and ditches around the course, we found very few golf balls.
We built a sort of tree fort with some spare planks that Ronnie’s dad had. It wasn’t a real fort, more like a platform across the place where the tree trunk separated into a few smaller trunks. It was on the other side of the creek that ran through the Janischewski property. There were frogs that lived along the creek beneath the tree fort. One day Ronnie told me that there were people that ate frog’s legs. We decided to see if that could be possible, if there was even enough meat on a frog’s leg to eat. We caught a small frog beside the creek and removed the frog’s skin, while it was still alive. Clearly there was not enough flesh on those tiny frog legs to make a meal for anyone.
It didn’t occur to us, at the time, the pain and suffering we inflicted on that small creature, just to satisfy our curiosity. But it was awful and horrendous and completely unnecessary and once I came to understand the cruel and brutal thing I had done; I have regretted it ever since. Even though the torture we inflicted was not done out of malice or to sway power over a lesser creature, it was needless and saying sorry is simply not enough and does not assuage the act of ending the existence of a living being just for curiosity. I wonder if Ronnie came to feel as bad about that as I do.